A study released last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the delay of renewable energy projects across the U.S. due to regulatory and legal barriers is potentially costing the nation more than $575 billion. The Chamber estimates that construction of the 351 projects included in the study could generate nearly 2 million jobs per year. And indirect economic and employment benefits if the projects were built and operated for 20 years were found to be in the trillions.
Of course, it is unrealistic to assume that all of these projects would reach completion even without these barriers. The study does, however, give buoyance to renewable energy advocates who are putting pressure on regulators and policy-makers to address the obstacles preventing increased investment in the clean-energy sector.
In California, for example, several large-scale solar projects recently proposed for the Mojave Desert have been put on hold due to challenges brought forth by Native American tribes over cultural resources in the area as well as by environmentalists concerned with the impact on endangered species and habitat. In other areas, NIMBYism has led to the defeat of proposed energy projects.
As reported in an earlier post, California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to name a clean energy jobs czar who would work with the governor’s advisor for renewable energy facilities to help speed up the siting and approval of these projects. Still no word on who might fill this post or when.
The California Legislature, however, is not waiting on the governor to act. Also last week, the state Assembly passed a bill aimed at spurring clean energy development and jobs. The bill adds wind and geothermal projects to the state’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (previously applicable only to solar projects) and seeks to streamline the permitting process for new energy projects. The bill now heads to the Senate for committee assignment.
The Chamber study hit the streets at a good time. With unemployment still high and consumers once again feeling the pinch at the pump, the time appears ripe for state and federal action to address siting challenges and incentivize new investments in alternative energy.